While telehealth has been around for many years, the pandemic put a spotlight on it and brought the practice to the forefront. As people and providers were reluctant to schedule in-person doctor visits, telehealth allowed them to have access to health care via a virtual platform, computer or cell phone. Telehealth also allowed patients to directly message their provider(s) with questions or concerns about their care. It provided faster access to both specialty care and regular health care services.
Telehealth has become an important distribution channel for physicians to offer their services. With 60 million people living in rural communities in the U.S., telehealth services create big opportunities to make care more accessible and potentially more economical for patients who don’t have to travel for basic care. The global telehealth market was estimated at $48.3 billion in 2022 and is expected to reach $57.1 billion in 2023.
In 2020, the Tennessee General Assembly passed an update to a law that stipulated that reimbursement for telehealth must be the same as an in-person visit, known as the payment parity. While the law was originally set to expire in April 2022, the Assembly made the decision not to sunset it. As a result, reimbursements will be the same for both in-person and telehealth visits. The continuation of the payment parity will only serve to continue the trend in increased telehealth usage.
IoT and wearable healthcare gadgets
The Internet of Things (IoT) is simply linking the internet to an everyday item, and this has made way for wearable healthcare gadgets that provide opportunities for healthcare providers to track vitals and control treatment processes in real-time. In 2020, 42% of US consumers said they used tools to measure fitness and track health-improvement goals.
Consumers are rapidly adopting the use of wearable technology to monitor their health and measure their fitness, and they are using that data to make decisions. These devices, such as Apple Watches, track key health metrics, such as heart rate, as well as steps and other exercise stats. Through continuous monitoring of vitals, wearable healthcare gadgets may help patients take more proactive approaches to health and allow their clinicians to monitor and view results.
Scientists are using artificial intelligence and machine learning to create wearable devices that can analyze health data for mental health and physical health in real-time. A group of scientists at NTU released a study in 2022 showing how an individual’s sleep patterns, activity levels and heart rate can be used to determine risk of depression. Another study by scientists at the University of Chicago developed a flexible biosensor device that sticks directly on the skin for continuous monitoring and more predictive analysis, such as risk for a heart attack or stroke.
As more options are offered and the quality continues to improve, the healthcare industry should anticipate an increase in wearable healthcare gadget use in 2023.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning
There is a lot of opportunity for leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) to improve patient care. Through data-driven decisions and streamlined workflows, AI can support the delivery of care as well as business efficiencies for providers.
There has been a growing demand for personalized medicines, and the requirements around maintaining digital health records have been a significant driving force for AI in the healthcare market. AI has enabled providers to enhance their work performance, creating a better work/life balance which is a huge benefit for the industry as the war on talent continues. The adoption of AI has allowed for more automation of routine processes, as well as aiding in the prediction, diagnosis and treatment for patients which helps providers deliver higher quality patient care.
Machine learning tools in the healthcare industry are forecasted to surpass $20 million in 2023 with an estimation of a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 37% during the forecast period 2022 to 2030. AI has made positive impacts in clinical trials by predicting outcomes and potential side effects of new drugs. It is also being used to analyze computer vision algorithms to assist in early detection of diseases in medical imagery, such as in x-rays and MRIs.
Patient privacy and algorithm transparency continue to be challenges for AI development within the healthcare industry. More regulatory agencies are getting involved as this technology evolves.
Cloud technology has increased significantly and is available to patients and healthcare professionals alike. As AI and machine learning tools continue to increase, the required training and the execution of these tools require more cloud data centers. Through 2025, powerhouse cloud ecosystems will consolidate the vendor landscape by 30%, leaving healthcare organizations with fewer choices. Because these cloud ecosystems integrate the tools of a cloud solution provider, the need for more powerful systems is increasing but many of these ecosystems are incomplete, missing functionality, maturity and adoption. Therefore, healthcare organizations have had to develop a blended ecosystem to meet their requirements for now.
Cloud platforms for the healthcare industry are an emerging trend because they create value by offering adaptable and relevant solutions for healthcare organizations across a single platform. These cloud platforms have significantly accelerated cloud adoption by healthcare leaders as the need for cloud infrastructure and platform technologies increases. In March 2022, Microsoft launched Azure Health Data Services, a platform as a service (PaaS) designed exclusively to support protected health information (PHI) in the cloud.
While barriers include the cost to migrate to a cloud technology platform and a shift in how data is accessed, transitioning to cloud technology is necessary to support AI and machine learning tools. When switching to a cloud technology platform, providers also need to implement robust cybersecurity policies and procedures.
Big data and analytics
Big data and analytics are revolutionizing many industries, and the healthcare industry is one of the most prominent areas where it is transforming processes. Benefits of big data in healthcare include improving outcomes, increasing operational efficiencies, performing predictive analytics, monitoring patients in real-time, reducing fraud, and streamlining finance and accounting.
The global market size for big data in healthcare was valued at $32.9 billion in 2021 and with a CAGR of 13.85% is predicted to reach $105.73 billion by 2030. North America leads the global market for big data due to IoT and increased demand for analytical models of patient data to support better service delivery and regulatory regulations.
Big Data can enhance the welfare of a patient by aiding in the management of therapy and is effective in lowering the cost of diagnostic needs. Big Data can also offer better insights to patients who are at high risk of illness, allowing healthcare providers to prescribe preventative treatments and make clinical decisions with greater accuracy. Many healthcare organizations are increasingly investing in clinical data analytics for analyzing patient data that can improve patient care.
Blockchain is an emerging technology that has the potential to revolutionize the healthcare industry, and providers are creating innovative solutions that leverage the technology to improve the performance, security, and transparency of sharing healthcare data. Blockchain creates an easily sharable digital version of old company ledger books or patient files. A team from Deloitte Consulting describes blockchain as a shared, immutable record of peer-to-peer transactions built from linked transaction blocks and stored in a digital ledger. By allowing peer-to- peer decentralized distributed ledger technology, blockchain provides patients a means to share their patient level health information without compromising privacy.
Even though blockchain has not fully matured in the healthcare industry due to technical, organizational and behavioral implementation issues, among others, the market was valued at $2.12 billion in 2020, and with a CAGR of 8.7% is expected to reach $3.49 billion by 2026.
Blockchain can improve efficiency and workflow processes to aid in better patient care and work/life balance for providers. Blockchain technology used in healthcare can be used for tasks including credential verification, medical record sharing, cost and payment tracking, organ and transplant tracking, and pharmaceutical supply chain review. Additionally, as blockchain technology spreads through the industry, there will be increased uses for personal health records (PHRs), health insurance claim adjustments, and prescription tracking.
Some of the challenges that healthcare organizations face when implementing blockchain include supporting system evolution while minimizing integration complexities, minimizing data storage requirements, balancing data sharing capabilities with privacy concerns, and tracking relevant health changes scalable across large patient populations.